A grim, well-researched case that capitalism is wildly dysfunctional but that reform is possible, if not imminent.



A study of the disastrous collision of capitalism and public health.

Capitalism gives off a fusty air, so many leaders prefer the term free market to describe the system that dominates global economies—and whose flaws are no secret to scholars, including Freudenberg, an expert on public health policy. Since the peak of the so-called “welfare state” in the 1960s, writes the author, the U.S. has adopted neoliberalism, whose strategies of deregulation, tax cuts, privatization, and austerity grant capital markets supreme authority. After the introduction, Freudenberg presents six long chapters on the dismal state of what he calls “the pillars of health.” Our global food system has largely eliminated famine, replacing it with an epidemic of overnutrition, obesity, and diet-related diseases, the result of an avalanche of low-quality, superprocessed, calorie-dense quasi-foods. Education leads to better health, but declining government support has led to an explosion of private enterprise. Charter schools suck money from public funds with the promise of a cheaper, better product, but they have not delivered. For-profit colleges verge on scams, and adolescents are becoming addicted to their electronic devices at the expense of human interaction, a situation that causes depression and anxiety. In the sole chapter that focuses exclusively on health care, the author discusses the war on cancer. He shows how pharmaceutical companies, in their obsessive search for a “blockbuster drug,” churn out wildly expensive chemotherapeutics that may or may not prolong life a few months. In his conclusion, Freudenberg works hard to project optimism. Unions remain moribund, but low-paid workers continue to organize to press for better conditions; others have launched cooperative business ventures. Though the federal government is consistently gridlocked, the author describes state and city programs that provide child care, family leave, affordable public transportation, and living wages. Ultimately, these efforts must coalesce into a mass movement with political clout, and Freudenberg remains hopeful.

A grim, well-researched case that capitalism is wildly dysfunctional but that reform is possible, if not imminent.

Pub Date: March 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-19-007862-1

Page Count: 392

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.


From the Pocket Change Collective series

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.


A British journalist fulminates against Black Lives Matter, critical race theory, and other threats to White privilege.

“There is an assault going on against everything to do with the Western world—its past, present, and future.” So writes Spectator associate editor Murray, whose previous books have sounded warnings against the presumed dangers of Islam and of non-Western immigration to the West. As the author argues, Westerners are supposed to take in refugees from Africa, Asia, and Latin America while being “expected to abolish themselves.” Murray soon arrives at a crux: “Historically the citizens of Europe and their offspring societies in the Americas and Australasia have been white,” he writes, while the present is bringing all sorts of people who aren’t White into the social contract. The author also takes on the well-worn subject of campus “wokeness,” a topic of considerable discussion by professors who question whether things have gone a bit too far; indeed, the campus is the locus for much of the anti-Western sentiment that Murray condemns. The author’s arguments against reparations for past damages inflicted by institutionalized slavery are particularly glib. “It comes down to people who look like the people to whom a wrong was done in history receiving money from people who look like the people who may have done the wrong,” he writes. “It is hard to imagine anything more likely to rip apart a society than attempting a wealth transfer based on this principle.” Murray does attempt to negotiate some divides reasonably, arguing against “exclusionary lines” and for Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s call for a more vigorous and welcoming civil culture. Too often, however, the author falters, as when he derides Gen. Mark Milley for saying, “I want to understand white rage. And I’m white”—perhaps forgetting the climacteric White rage that Milley monitored on January 6, 2021.

A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-316202-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Broadside Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2022

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